c.1500, from Fr. affirmatif (13c.), from L. affirmativus, from pp. stem of affirmare (see affirm). Meaning "answering yes" is from c.1400, from use in logic. Affirmative action "positive effort by employers to prevent discrimination in hiring or promotion" is attested from 1935 with regard to labor practices; specific racial sense is from 1961; now often used more generally in ref. to hiring quotas, etc.